McCafferty v. Newsweek Media Group Ltd, No. 19-1545 (3d Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
During the 2016 presidential campaign, C.M., not yet 12 years old, publicly endorsed Donald Trump and released videos seen by thousands. A video in which C.M. called Hillary Clinton “deplorable” attracted more than 325,000 views on Facebook alone. C.M. stated: The people I talk about in these posts really have it coming. In 2018, Newsweek published an article, “Trump’s Mini-Mes,” that featured a photo of C.M. holding up a Trump campaign sign; it referred to Trump supporters recruiting children as spokespeople and to children “being weaponized” to defend “raw racism and sexual abuse.”
The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of C.M.'s false light and defamation suit. The article contained derogatory opinions based only on disclosed facts, which are not enough to show defamation or false light. Every contested statement is an opinion, label, or speculation based on disclosed facts and alleges no specific wrongdoing; derogatory characterizations without more are not defamatory. C.M. is a limited-purpose public figure. He voluntarily injected himself into the political controversies and enjoys significantly greater access to the channels of effective communication than his peers. C.M. did not plead facts showing actual malice, which the First Amendment requires of those who step into the political spotlight.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on April 20, 2020.